“He’s from Gävle, you know. Grumpy, like his dad.”
Capitals veteran star Nicklas Bäckström has taken Christian Djoos under his wing during his rookie season. And, when the young defenseman punched Golden Knights forward James Neal in the face, Bäckström had a good laugh.
The two players share a hometown in Sweden, and if the Capitals win the Stanley Cup, the legendary trophy will make it to the city for the very first time. Ahead of Game Four, Sportbladet’s NHL correspondent, Per Bjurman, spoke to the other Bäckström and Djoos. Anders and Pär, fathers of Nicklas and Christian respectively, both had great hockey careers, with each winning a Swedish Championship gold medal.
Anders Bäckström was drafted by the New York Rangers, but never made it to the NHL, while Pär Djoos played 82 games for Detroit Red Wings and the Rangers. Hockey runs in the blood of these families.
“But a lot of years have passed since the boys needed any advice from us”, they said on Sunday, between Games Three and Four of the Stanley Cup Final. “It’s a very special thing to watch them play in the Stanley Cup Final. We’re just here supporting them if they need us to.”
“It’s a great experience. I’ve been here a time or two before, but those trips were nothing like this”, Pär Djoos said. “You can hardly enter the practice with all the people and commotion!”
Even for Anders Bäckström, who has been watching his son Nicklas play for the Capitals for the last 11 seasons, the Stanley Cup Final is something else.
“It’s really special”, he said. “I’ve been around for a while and longed for this. The expectations have been so high on many of the previous teams through the years. This time I didn’t really have any [expectaions] and look where we ended up.”
As many fans have already acknowledged, the key was to finally beat the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second round.
“When they took down Pittsburgh it was like the team got rid of a mental block. It had a huge impact on their confidence, winning that series.”
Pär Djoos played his last season of hockey for Brynäs while Nicklas Bäckström worked his way up through the junior ranks of the same club. The city of Gävle is a classic hockey town in Sweden, with many championships won by Brynäs and a ton of Tre Kronor-stars raised there through the years.
But surprisingly enough, not one player born there has ever won the Stanley Cup. Now, two former players are watching their sons get the chance to play for the legendary trophy for their mutual hometown.
“When you’re on the ice, you’re just focusing on your tasks. It’s much worse looking on from the stands, not being able to affect the outcome of the game,” Anders Bäckström said, with Pär Djoos agreeing.
“Yes, I feel really strong about that. Not being able to do anything. As a parent, you’re not sitting there worrying for your kid. It’s about the team. If the team does well, usually so does Christian,” Pär added.
Both Anders and Pär had outstanding careers, playing defensemen for Brynäs. In the early years, Anders took his son, Nicklas, to Gavlerinken Arena to watch him play. Back home in Valbo, Anders taught his two sons skate and play hockey in their backyard.
But, as it turns out, there’s not much Anders can teach his son these days. At least according to an anecdote shared by Pär Djoos. “One time I went to a game with Anders, and he wasn’t happy with how Nicklas took a faceoff. ‘What the hell is he doing?’, he said. Later I drove home with them and Anders promised himself he wouldn’t mention the draw. But we barely left the arena before he cried, ‘What the hell were you thinking?’ He got a great answer back from Nicky. ‘How many faceoffs did you ever take, dad?'”
With Nicklas, Christian, and the rest of the Capitals just one win away from the Stanley Cup, both Anders and Pär are proudly watching their sons on the ice.
And what about the grumpiness associated with being from Gävle, which lead to Christian Djoos punching James Neal in the face.
“Ah, you know. You can’t let them push you around out there.”
Yet another lesson passed on from father to son.
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